US Senator John Kerry said during a visit to Pakistan yesterday that he told Pakistani officials Washington had “grave” concerns over Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan before the al-Qaeda leader was killed in a US raid two weeks ago.
“I expressed as clearly as possible grave concerns in the United States over Osama bin Laden’s presence in Pakistan and existence here of sanctuaries for adversaries in Afghanistan,” Kerry told a news conference.
Kerry said some members of Congress were not confident that bilateral relations can be fixed after it was discovered that bin Laden has spent years in the country.
”The make or break is real. There are members of Congress who are not confident it [ties] can be patched back together,” he said.
Kerry arrived in Pakistan on Sunday from Afghanistan, where he told reporters the US wanted Pakistan to be a real ally in the fight against militancy.
Kerry, a Democrat close to US President Barack Obama’s administration and who is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, met powerful army chief General Ashfaq Kayani at army headquarters late on Sunday and met other officials yesterday.
While Kerry had tough questions for Pakistan, its military was expected to convey its anger over the US assault on bin Laden, which military officials say has caused a breakdown in trust and cast a shadow over security cooperation.
“Kayani ... apprised the visiting dignitary about intense feelings of rank and file of the Pakistan army on the Abbottabad incident,” the military said in a statement yesterday, referring to the operation to get bin Laden.
The Nation newspaper, which generally reflects the thinking of the military establishment, said Kerry’s mission was to pressure Pakistan into accepting all US demands, even at the cost of Pakistan’s national interests.
“The US may have serious questions post-Osama episode, but Pakistan stands totally disenchanted and dismayed,” the paper said in an editorial.
The government should stick to the positions spelled out by the Pakistani parliament on the weekend, it said.
“There should be no compromise on sovereignty and national interests at any costs,” it said.
The US administration has not accused Pakistan of complicity in hiding bin Laden, but has said he must have had some sort of support network, which it wants to uncover.
US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton spoke on Sunday to Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari by telephone about the situation since bin Laden’s death, Zardari’s office said, adding -Zardari told Clinton about parliament’s concerns.
“Both agreed to resolve the issues amicably and move forward,” the president’s office said.